My 2020 Projection

Predicting a Biden wave.

With two days to go in the race and close to 100 million votes already cast, here’s how I see the vote turning out:

This is a contest where Montana and South Carolina are merely leaning toward the Republican candidate and Georgia and Texas are in play. We had a wave election (albeit one mostly confined to the House) in 2018 revolting against the sitting Republican President and things have gotten much, much worse for him since then, most notably with his bizarre and deadly politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats are as mobilized as they have been since 2008, albeit more against the Republican than for their nominee, the youth vote is perhaps more mobilized still, and the Republican base has shrunk considerably. North Carolina has already turned purple and Virginia is solidly blue at the statewide level. And the demographic tide is turning in Texas. Further, Trump’s scare campaign against mail-in voters may well backfire, resulting in his elderly supporters being less likely to cast a ballot than Biden’s.

Obviously, I’m going out on a limb in having Texas go Biden’s way. But I very much see this as a wave election. Indeed, it’s not inconceivable that I’m understating the wave, as I think the pollsters have over-corrected their likely voter screen based on 2016 and are over-weighting whites without college degrees. So, while I wouldn’t be shocked if Trump held Texas, it wouldn’t be a huge upset if Biden took Ohio, Missouri, and Iowa.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    I wish I knew how to adjust the polls for state-by-state voter suppression.

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  2. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Bold prediction. I don’t see Biden getting all three of Florida, Georgia and Texas. I think he gets one in the best case scenario.

    From what I’ve studied–it comes down to Florida and Wisconsin. Trump has to win both. If he splits he needs to run the table in places where he’s polling terribly. If he loses Florida it’s over. A Wisconsin loss gives him some hope but not much.

    I think Biden wins back the Obama states Hillary lost to include Florida. The last 2 Governor elections were razor thin margins here. I think Trump, this time, mobilizes more Dems than 2016 and Biden will shave some Senior vote away from him.

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  3. Scott F. says:

    I look forward to the day when your map is posted next to the map Trump carried around for the first year so he could boast of his “historic” win in 2016.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Teve:

    I wish I knew how to adjust the polls for state-by-state voter suppression.

    Yes, that’s next to impossible.

    @Jim Brown 32:

    I don’t see Biden getting all three of Florida, Georgia and Texas. I think he gets one in the best case scenario.

    That’s likely the way to bet. But he’s been ahead in Florida pretty consistently for months and Florida has gone Democratic many times, making it a legitimate swing state. If it were just a Presidential race, I’d give Georgia to Trump but I think enthusiasm from the Senate races will carry over. Texas is the hardest sell, as Coryn looks likely to win handily. But there are enough in-migrants from other states and Mexican-Americans to make it interesting and, again, I think the anti-Trump enthusiasm is white hot this year.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    James, your map is close to being my best-case scenario. The only possibility for improvement is if we also took Ohio.

    I don’t think I have the optimism to think we’re taking FL, TX and GA. One, maybe. Florida is a corrupt, Republican-run state, we won’t win a close race. Georgia is also crooked as hell but the Stacy Abrams factor may tilt that to us. Texas is a bit more 21st century, I believe, but Republicans are already busy trying to steal 100,000 votes there.

    If we don’t get a Texas miracle it’ll all be down to Pennsylvania. If Biden takes PA it’s all over but the prosecuting.

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  6. JKB says:

    Well, the wealthy and retailers in Democrat controlled cities are showing they believe Trump is going to win with their engagement of private military for security and boarding up.

    As for how it is going to go is a Trump sweep with also the popular vote. This is a demographic shift election so the expectations based on past voting are way off. Finding the loss of some greater a percentage of the black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ vote is going to stun Democrats.

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  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    My prediction is that Hillary will be caught drinking the blood of babies grown in Oprah’s blood-baby processing plant.

    Do I have all that right? I know it’s an evolving madness. Hard to keep up. Sorry about JFK Jr. not rising from the dead.

    And now Trump is going to sweep the popular vote, eh? Uh huh.

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  8. Mikey says:

    @JKB:

    This is a demographic shift election so the expectations based on past voting are way off.

    You’re right, but you’re not going to be nearly as happy about it as you think you are.

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  9. EddieInCA says:

    As many of you know, I’ve been bullish on Biden/Harris since late 2018.

    I have the same map as Dr. Joyner, but with Ohio also in the GOP camp. Unlike the “hidden Trump voter” BS we have all been subjected to, I believe there is a “hidden Biden vote” of long time GOP seniors who are going to pull the lever for Biden on election day.

    I think Biden hits 400 EV’s.

    But I could be wrong…. again.

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  10. EddieInCA says:

    Sorry. Ohio in the Dem camp.

    No edit button this post.

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  11. mattbernius says:

    @JKB:
    Since you are so sure of this, how about a bet as to the outcome? My perference is that the results go to charity, but I would leave that up to you.

    I have offered the same thing to Keef, but he (?) never seems to answer.

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  12. JohnMcC says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Darn, Michael! You don’t remember the popular vote sweep that Mr Trump made in ’16? I mean, you don’t believe that business about 2.8 (plus) million votes for Killary, do ya? The ones that rigged the CA vote? The illegal aliens? C’mon man!

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  13. Kylopod says:

    @JKB:

    As for how it is going to go is a Trump sweep with also the popular vote.

    Please tell me your estimate of what the final popular and/or electoral margin will be.

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  14. Mikey says:

    Here’s an interesting graphic/table from electoral-vote.com: Tipping-Point State

    It’s Pennsylvania. If Biden wins all the states he’s pretty much safe in, plus Wisconsin (where he is still pretty safe), Minnesota (ditto), and Nevada (same), PA wraps it up for him by pushing him to 279 EVs.

    Note that this does not necessitate him winning either Florida or Texas, and also eliminates Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona from his “need to have” pile.

    And there are a lot of ways you can shuffle the states that are likely D or leaning D that push Biden over the top. Trump doesn’t get there if he doesn’t steal a couple of those states, but Biden doesn’t need any state that even leans R.

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  15. Kathy says:

    I’d be happy to cook some crow for November 4th.

    But can we get the trolls to eat it?

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  16. @JKB:

    As for how it is going to go is a Trump sweep with also the popular vote.

    And what evidence do you have for this assertion?

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  17. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: In 2016 Sam Wang promised to eat a bug on camera if Trump won. He honored the promise. In 2012 Joe Scarborough had a bet with David Axelrod: if Romney won, Axelrod would shave his mustache, and if Obama won, Scarborough would grow one. After Obama won, Scarborough backed out of the bet by agreeing to donate money to the Axelrods’ epilepsy foundation.

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  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    The problem with PA being the tipping point state is, we won’t know who won till maybe Friday or Saturday and it is likely to be a mess. It would be best if Biden were to win one of the quick reporting toss-up states, such as FL or OH.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    Well, the wealthy and retailers in Democrat controlled cities are showing they believe Trump is going to win with their engagement of private military for security and boarding up.

    There’s an increasing expectation of violence, yes, but I don’t think that points to who is going to win, or when.

    There are a lot of crazy Trump fucks (see the Trump Truck Train posts) and counter protesters. Now add in days to know who is winning because of vote counting. And Republican efforts to throw out votes. That’s just a recipe for violence no matter who wins.

    And it’s largely because Trump has undermined confidence in the election while encouraging the violent extremes of his base.

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  20. Blue Galangal says:

    @EddieInCA: I wish I could think you were right about Ohio, but there is so much white privilege, white resentment, and plain old white supremacy here, and they are not going quietly. I really hope I’m wrong and you are indeed right.

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  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And what evidence do you have for this assertion?

    Every information source he does not reflexively dismiss is telling him that. In his world, that’s overwhelming evidence.

    If there is a blue wave, do not for a moment believe that the reaction of the JKBs of the world (not to mention his less-erudite brethren) will be to suddenly realize that they were gullible dupes. They will double down on the conspiracy theories, and things will get very very ugly for a time. COVID-19 is a relatively straightforward challenge for a Biden administration, compared with how to deal with the GOP and the wingnut infotainment complex fomenting violent rebellion through disinformation.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    Indeed, it’s not inconceivable that I’m understating the wave, as I think the pollsters have over-corrected their likely voter screen based on 2016 and are over-weighting whites without college degrees.

    Given the early voting totals (Texas already exceeding 2016 total votes, before Election Day), I have little confidence in the voter screens. There are too many variables, and too much correlation between the variables.

    I think it means a blue wave — or rather a blue wave and a red wave, with a larger blue wave — with a map that looks a lot like yours. But that’s a lot of states that Biden wins narrowly, and which are in the range of vote suppression, and legal maneuvering to stop the count or throw out the ballots.

    I think Texas stays red by a sliver. Circuit court throws out 100,000 Harris county drive-through voting ballot, Supreme Court rules 5-4 in favor of throwing out ballots, and it makes the difference in both presidential and senate races (with the presidential race being moot since Biden wins elsewhere) — Roberts voting with the minority.

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  23. Michael Cain says:

    @Gustopher:

    …Supreme Court rules 5-4 in favor of throwing out ballots, and it makes the difference in both presidential and senate races (with the presidential race being moot since Biden wins elsewhere) — Roberts voting with the minority.

    Yeah, Roberts has been reasonably consistent in his position that it’s okay for the state courts and officials to make changes in the rules, but not for the federal courts.

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  24. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Got to have faith. I’ve nothing that would convince you. Enthusiasm is a soft criteria. But at this point, you go for broke. When it is all about human emotions and the “wisdom of crowds”, sometimes faking it means you make it.

    More fanciful would be Biden wins, the Hunter laptop(s) explodes into the headlines over the next month and the electors decide they can’t vote for someone who may be owned and operated by the Chinese. We end up with Trump as president and Kamala as VP. Now that would be fun.

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  25. JohnSF says:

    @JKB:

    Finding the loss of some greater a percentage of the black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ vote is going to stun Democrats.

    It may well indeed, if anybody translates that into something coherent.

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  26. JohnSF says:

    @JKB:

    …who may be owned and operated by the Chinese.

    Or may be owned and operated by the Martian Illuminati lizard people.

    Never wise to leave those guys out of your calculations.
    All hail Discordia!

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  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    We end up with Trump as president and Kamala as VP.

    Please do show us the part of the Constitution that makes that even slightly possible.

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  28. Mikey says:

    @JKB: Electors voted for someone definitely owned and operated by Russia in 2016.

    Biden isn’t a traitor like the scumbag you worship, though.

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF: I believe he is trying to say that Trump will get more than 28% of the Latino vote and more than 13% of the black vote. Those were his 2016 percentages.

    And while I shudder to think that anyone votes for Trump, I would be mildly delighted if Republicans in general were to moderate their party enough to appeal to a broader number of minority voters.

    Democrats have been treating Latinos as a single issue monolith for a while, and outside of immigration and some high school level spanish doing very little to reach out to them. If the Republicans weren’t so fucking racist we would lose them, or at least a larger chunk. Other than not being antagonistic, what do we offer 3rd generation Latinos who aren’t trying to bring their family over? It’s a broad community (or collection of communities) and we are only appealing to a small segment.

    I think we are better on the issues with black voters, but Trump was able to get Republicans in Congress to agree to some modest criminal justice reform after denying Democrats that opportunity.

    Again, that’s just one issue out of dozens, but I think that it’s a major one — when close to 30% of black men are going to end up in jail at some point in their levels, as opposed to under 5% of white men, that destroys communities and families.

    We (Democrats) could do better for each community, and if the Republicans were actually trying to get appeal to them, we would have to do better. And I would welcome that.

    But apparently in right wing land, if Trump manages to only lose black voters by 75% instead of 80%, that is hoisting libtards by their own petard. Except without the rhyme, because the rhyme is clever, and Republicans don’t do clever.

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  30. Kylopod says:

    It should be kept in mind that one of the factors that has emboldened the crazies on the right in the first place wasn’t just Trump’s 2016 victory itself, but the notorious failure of the polls and the pundits to see it coming. Go back four years to some of the stuff written here on OTB, and James and the other hosts were confidently predicting a Clinton victory, with the regulars smugly shooting down anyone who thought Trump might win. Even JKB here was saying Clinton would win. (Note that Doug’s post to which this is a response is quite measured and suggests a Trump win was possible albeit unlikely. But many others–at OTB and elsewhere–were quite a bit less tentative.)

    The day Trump won has gone down in legend for the right, because what it represents to them is the point when all the hoity toity know-it-all libs with their big words and advanced degrees were proven wrong. It gave the right the perfect excuse to descend further down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and anti-intellectualism. That’s why they’re even less inclined to listen to those who say Biden has it in the bag. They heard the same thing in 2016. And they think that was the last chance those people had to be taken seriously.

    The problem is, the Dems have not gotten over the shock of 2016, and it’s made them much more cautious about predicting a Biden victory. The result is an asymmetric situation where the Dems are cautious and tentative, the Repubs smug and confident. And I suspect even a big Biden victory won’t change this dynamic much. The Repubs will think it was stolen, and the Dems will think they dodged a bullet. But the 2016 upset is still a large part of how we got here.

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  31. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Also, the 1990s crime bill was supported by blacks in the 1990s. It’s an example of a well-intentioned, popular bill that had bad consequences.

    It should have been fixed long before now, and I hope we have learned a lesson and put sunset clauses onto shit like this in the future.

    I wish Biden was a little more forceful in defending it as a defensible mistake, and say what he learned from it other than just that it was a mistake.

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  32. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod:

    The result is an asymmetric situation where the Dems are cautious and tentative, the Repubs smug and confident.

    I don’t see how anyone can look at the voting numbers coming out of Texas and feel very confident — as much as I want to believe that it is all Democrats coming out, it’s also definitely Republicans who are coming out because finally their votes might matter.

    And I think we see that playing out in a less dramatic scale in a lot of states. 538 has about half the country in the “leans this way or that” category.

    Also, this helps show that if we didn’t have the electoral college, elections would be radically different. There’s not much point for an individual voting in California for either side when the outcome is not in any doubt.

    (That said, Washington state is likely to have a record turnout year, and Seattle voters are voting earlier than ever (or more than ever, but we don’t know that yet), so spite is a powerful motivator even if the result isn’t in doubt)

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  33. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Faithless electors, horrified about Joe Biden’s role in Pizzagate vote for a consensus candidate, JFK Jr, for President. But Kamala is not implicated.

    Then no candidate for President gets 270 electors, and it goes to the House voting based on state delegations. So, Trump gets the nod.

    Meanwhile, Kamala Harris gets 270+ votes for VP, because it is a separate ballot.

    Totally constitutional. Article II, Section 1. And then one of the Anendments. The 12th.

    And then Kamala kills Trump and pardons herself. And then eats Trump’s cabinet. And pardons herself again. There is a Supreme Court case about whether a president can pardon herself, but… you guessed it, she eats all the conservative justices and pardons herself again. The Supreme Court votes 3-0 in Kamala’s favor.

    Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party is nothing compared to Kamala Harris with self-pardon power.

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  34. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    I think I sort of see what you mean: if the Republicans had more Latino/Hispanic and AfricanAmerican voters as a regular constituency, it would make them think more seriously about not playing footsie with the alt-right?

    Good point for an American right-of-centre party going forward.
    But can the GoP be that sensible?
    IIRC the Jeb Bush faction were pushing that line, and got kerb-stomped by the loonies.

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  35. JohnSF says:

    @JohnSF:
    And lo, the edit function has buggered off once again.
    Continued from above:
    And also, competition for the votes of PoC would mean more actual things getting done, not just skating bye on rhetoric?

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  36. An Interested Party says:

    Got to have faith.

    Written by someone who suffers with the delusion that Trump will win the popular vote(!)…faith indeed…

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  37. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    Well, all that sounds plausible…

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  38. Jax says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It’s probably already a screenplay somewhere in Q world….with flavors of The Purge, Election Year.

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  39. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Congrats on letting JKB get you all worked up again. You know he doesn’t believe any of the sh*t he spews but you get agitated anyway. He wins when you respond. Ignore him. It will drive him nuts.

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  40. Kylopod says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: This is yet another example where I fundamentally disagree with the Theory of Trolls that’s so prevalent on the Internet, this defeatist notion that the very act of responding to them is automatically playing into their hands.

    One problem is that the term “troll” is thrown around so broadly. I think JKB is genuine. You don’t. Fine; there’s no way to prove it one way or the other. But I can tell you, I’ve run across people like him offline, and they seem like true believers. To be sure, there’s an element of trollishness inherent in right-wing culture, but at the end of the day there are a lot of people out there who do very much believe in the conspiracy bullshit being fed to them. Some of those people go online and express their views. We can’t just assume all of those are attention junkies or paid purveyors of disinformation.

    But here’s the thing: countering disinformation, whatever the motive of those who spread it, is not a waste of time. Just because the person refuses to listen to you or back down from their absurd claims does not imply they’ve “won.” Even if the person thinks they’ve “owned the libs” after you dismantle their claims doesn’t change the objective reality that you’ve blunted their efforts to spread the disinformation. We don’t have to judge our success on their terms.

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  41. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @Kylopod:

    1. I doubt it.

    2. It makes for boring reading for the rest of us.

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